Last season Devon Kennard stood watching on the sideline as the Trojans were torn apart sideline to sideline against the best spread-option offenses in the Pac-12 conference. This season, Kennard centers a transformation relying upon his three-year career with 135 tackles of experience towards regaining a sense of swagger on the defensive side of the ball.
“It was difficult,” Kennard said about missing the entire 2012 season leaving his brothers. “I learned a lot and it humbled me a lot.” Returning from surgery to repair a torn chest muscle, the junior outside linebacker is a major player in a revamped defense, one energized by the possibilities of the 5-2 scheme. In a system built around his skills as a stand-up linebacker, Kennard has instantly become a legitimate threat along with fellow defensive stalwart Morgan Breslin.
“I definitely feel like it was a blessing in many different ways,” Kennard suggested about his season-ending injury. “It’s very exciting to be playing in a position I feel comfortable in, but at the same time challenges me athletically.”
The task of being a double-digit sack performer may be lofty, but certainly does not extend beyond the reach of his skill set. Already attacking the quarterback with brute force with speed around the edges, the Trojan pass-rushing specialist wants to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks from the first snap of the season.
“I feel like it’s back, but it has to stay back,” said Kennard, who enjoys being healthy and comfortable on defense. “It’s a lot of fun. It puts everybody on our defense in a position to make plays, which is why there is a new excitement on the defensive side of the ball everyday when we are out here.”
Battling through injuries even dating back to his junior year of high school in 2007, Kennard has overcome adversity from the very beginning. Thanks to a positive support group centered with his father Derek Kennard, an All-American offensive lineman at Nevada and an 11-year NFL veteran, Devon has never been short for motivation on how to win in athletics and life.
All those years of hard work and determination have culminated in a unique opportunity; he now stands as an emerging face of USC Athletics. As the vocal leader on the Trojans defense, Kennard can echo moral support and positive vibes each and every practice, most of which materializes plans to stuff the run, or give the O-line fits.
Not only a rising star on the field, but Kennard is also a well-known presence in the classroom. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Communications last spring (3.2 GPA), and earned All-Pac-12 academic honors in 2010 and 2011. Now working on a Master’s degree in Communication Management, Kennard understands the value of an education moving forward.
“Coming from where I came from and just all of the trials and tribulations I’ve gone through, it’s just exciting and that’s why I have as much energy as I do now because I look at it as a blessing from God to be where I’m at now,” said Kennard, the red shirt senior loaded with stories of perseverance and football excellence.
Finally getting the chance to play alongside the soft-spoken Breslin, the Trojans’ dynamic duo wants to dominate opposing offensive lines this upcoming season. “That’s on all of us,” Kennard said about leadership responsibilities. “We challenge each other, and we hold each other accountable every day.”
The last time we saw Devon Kennard in a football game that mattered was in 2011 against Oregon, a game that fans surely remember fondly: they upset the fourth-ranked Ducks up in Eugene in thrilling fashion. This time around, Kennard hopes to take his defense to the next level. Carrying forward an outstanding performance towards a season-long dominance on the gridiron, Kennard strives to be one of the mainstays of this new defense, one that is gearing up to be a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12.